Articles tagged with "reporting"

Red Bull does not give you wings

Today I'll take you on a small trip down the rabbit hole of verifying whether something reported on the media is actually true.

Let's start with this article from NPR about customers suing food companies for misleading companies. Let's take a look at this bit:

"Red Bull announced it would pay more than $13 million to settle a lawsuit brought by buyers who said the energy drink didn't — as the marketing materials promised — 'give you wings'".

What a stupid lawsuit, right? Of course drinking an energy drink won't give you actual wings!

Well, hold on. If we follow that link we reach an article on Business Insider with the click-bait title "Red Bull Will Pay $10 To Customers Disappointed The Drink Didn’t Actually Give Them 'Wings'". The text, however, explains that the wings are figurative, that Red Bull claimed that "the drink can improve concentration and reaction speeds", and that there was no scientific support for any of that.

However! Red Bull has caffeine, which is supposed to actually do all that. So what gives?

We need to go one level deeper. After plenty of searching through articles just copying each other we eventually reach this website with the text of the actual lawsuit. According to the complaint, Red Bull...

"During the class period, [Red Bull] have made various representations to consumers about the purported superior nature of Red Bull, over simpler and less expensive caffeine only products, such as caffeine tablets or a cup of coffee. To bolster those claims [Red Bull] post "scientific studies" on the Red Bull website which they say 'prove' Red Bull's superiority.

However, no competent, credible and reliable scientific evidence exists to support [Red Bull's] claims about the product".

Instead of fighting it in court, Red Bull settled for $13 million and retired the slogan.

So let's recap: we started with a perfectly reasonable complaint about false advertising, namely, that Red Bull's claims about being superior to plain coffee were false. This complaint ended up on a $13M settlement. It was then wrongly reported as "the drink does not improve concentration" (it might, just not any better than plain coffee), then was further reported as "customer angry that Red Bull doesn't give you (metaphorical) wings", and presented with click-bait titles that lead you to believe that the complaint was about actual, literal wings.

Remember, kids: when social media tells you something that sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Always check your sources! Otherwise you may end up backpacking through Europe convinced that touristic places are not full of tourists simply because Instagram told you so.